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Michael Sullivan Smith
Great Knot web site
The Rosenblum and Lamb Archives Blog
Thursday, 17 September 2015
Article in the Saugerties Times number 5

The Graphic History of Judge Charles Davis

by Michael Sullivan Smith with Audrey Klinkenberg

Graphic information is the most direct way to communicate, be it as simple as a smiley face emoticon or as densely packed as a weather map. Computers only took off when their screens had pictures, type styles and colors to present information.

Audrey and I were fresh off a course on digitizing historic archives at the Southeast New York Library Resources Council when we were first given the opportunity to tackle the material in Dan Lamb's Rosenblum and Lamb collection of local historical documents.

The first thing we did was record the contents of a square cabinet about five feet tall with twenty-five drawers. The organization of the cabinet had been shuffled from its original purpose over the years. After starting from the top drawer, down, to catalog it, at about the fifth or sixth drawer placard-size plates that were randomly mixed in with the contents of the top drawers filled these to the count of about fifty each.

I had recognized the size and type of information on these placards from two or three map-style images I'd found on the New York State Library collection's digital Internet archive. It was after I checked the writing style, signature and date on those against the ones in this cabinet that I realized what a totally unique resource we had.

The draftsman of these graphic plates was Judge Charles Davis and the contents of this cabinet were the original documents along with his graphics for diagramming them into property genealogies, so to speak, for the entire village of Saugerties. He had created a visual index to the hand written and sketched original descriptions of property exchanges in village wills and deeds made from the seventeenth century up to his time and this cabinet had been specially made sometime in the last decade of the nineteenth century form-fit for these placard-size memory devices.

Judge Charles Davis was born in the village and grew up in the family home on John Street, named after his father John W. Davis. Across the street from his childhood home was the estate of Fordyce Laflin, the father of his future wife, and beyond that to the east was nothing but farm fields with the Kiersted house and its barn floating in this open space; Washington Avenue had not yet extended north of Main street. To the south was the north edge of the village marked by the new Reformed Dutch church and beyond it westward more open farmland surrounding the home of Jeremiah Russell and his turnpike that stretched into the distance toward Woodstock and into the mountains. This would all grow dynamically in his lifetime.

About the time he had begun these studies of land transactions, in the 1880's, Charles Davis built his mansion house on John Street beside his childhood home. This house was still occupied by his daughter into the 1950's when she sold it to the American Legion Post 72. In their museum they have the copies of the original architect's drawings they found when they moved in.

Charles became a lawyer and then, into the 1890's a State senator and then Surrogate judge of Ulster County. He was serving on the water board of New York State during the planning and early construction stages of the New York City water supply system's Ashokan Reservoir when he died in 1913.

The small building with the columns on Main street that was long the town hall was built by Charles Davis when his son Byron became a lawyer and they became partners. Audrey had cataloged the papers of Byron Davis that are in the Saugerties Historical Society and these may have documents now recognizable as Charles Davis' but, on the whole, the contents of this cabinet collected by Morris Rosenblum sometime after the 1930's is the most important, lasting legacy that both Judge Charles Davis and the Rosenblum and Lamb collection could have preserved for us.

The Davis legacy in general has been fairly misplaced over the course of the twentieth century. It may surprise everyone to learn that the five acres encompassing the present stadium, diamond and tennis courts and extending over toward Market street extension was the land of John W. Davis that he had made into the ball field and driving park for horse racing as early as the 1890's when we first see this recreational space on maps of the village. Charles received this land in his father's will.

Also, the John W. Davis' estate owned all the land that had been Jeremiah Russell's farm on the north side of Ulster Avenue and it donated from this a small lot for parkland that was the original site of the Civil War memorial statue. Oddly, the statue was moved to the Davis land fronting Partition street when the American Legion bought it from Judge Davis' daughter. So this icon of Saugerties has continually followed the family around town.

The irony in this is that reminders of the course of Saugerties history related to the Davis family seem to be hiding in plain sight all over. This carries a message. That 1950's move of the GAR statue coincided with the death of the last Civil War veteran and the disbanding of the Grand Army of the Republic. This is an interesting marker for the turning point in Saugerties' relationship to its own history -- with all the changes that happened here in the 1950's and 60's. It is only now, with the digitizing of these plates Judge Davis made, that all can compare our past sixty years with what had likely gone missing also from the local memory in his time too, and what Judge Davis was also trying to find and preserve.

Is that why he made these memory devices; for posterity? Or were they made simply as teaching devices he used professionally as a lawyer to explain a statement of fact to a jury or a judge. Some have evidence stamps on them. Maybe that is how some ended up in the State Library collection; as the remnants of something that went all the way to the highest court. More of these may yet be discovered it that's the case.

What I like to think is that our Judge Davis simply needed these to be an informed and useful citizen. They were personal prompts he used as a shorthand for knowing his home. Their earliest coincide with the distribution of the birds eye panorama of the village we're all familiar with. This was the Google Earth of its day and he was just making the "historypin" links to the many materials he would have to remember and search through to have the answer to a question; just as we do today.

We have the same motivation when we digitize, catalog and create a finding device. The image is what is used for studying so the original needn't have to be fingered over every time someone has a new context they want to research.

Judge Charles Davis, with his graphic information, was anticipating the browser of a computer and its links on the Internet of the information age. Thanks to Dan Lamb and the generation of Rosenblum and Lamb that preceded him this information is preserved and can now be available to the Graphic User Interface of a twenty first century medium.


Posted by Michael Sullivan Smith at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 21 September 2015 9:12 AM EDT
Thursday, 10 September 2015
Article in the Saugerties Times number 4

Land For Sale

by Michael Sullivan Smith with Audrey Klinkenberg

We can't really know what the earliest inhabitants of Saugerties were like. Memoirs are a phenomenon of contemporary writing and there is evidence that most personal diaries were burned as a tradition when the writer passed away.

When a person is part of history it is only then that their diaries or personal observations in letters are saved. That, however, may actually skew our idea of history toward a particular point of view.

Last year Audrey transcribed the letter book of Henry Barclay. This is in the collection of the New York Historical Society and thanks to Audrey the letters of Henry Barclay are now available as one of their publications, no longer just pictures of scribbled pages on microfilm.

This handwritten record was donated to the historical society because the firm of Barclay and Livingston had an impact on New York City's growing status as a financial capital in the nineteenth century. Saugerties is very fortunate to be linked with this highly popular topic, with all of these letters falling under that heading in the catalog. But actually only a few of the letters are related to the finance business Henry Barclay founded and was retired from. Most of the letters relate to the Early Industrial Revolution and this ancillary link has now placed Saugerties squarely in the spotlight of that history for the first time in modern research thanks to Audrey's fine indexing practices and Barclay's contacts with the key names in both early industry and finance.

But that's not our topic here. Our topic is the value of land.

The record of Henry Barclay's appearance in an already established community of Saugerties can be found in an 1827 assessment role of all property owners in the town of Saugerties that is in Dan Lamb's collection. Barclay is recorded as the third highest assessed property owner of the town. This document is a snapshot made sixteen years into Saugerties existence as a town. It shows Saugerties in essentially the same state of development it had enjoyed for well over a century. It is a list of all the breadwinners of the time because everyone then still lived off the bounty of the land.

The names in this assessment role, which you can find in digital form in the History Atlas computer in the library local history room, are found on deeds written from the trustees of the Corporation of Kingston between 1687 and 1816. Over that entire period nearly a thousand of these deeds are recorded in the area that was to be the town of Saugerties, a list I've also placed in that computer in the library. Except for a few patents from the Crown in the part of Saugerties that was once in Albany county these trustees' deeds are the origins of the title to every piece of real estate you may buy or own in Saugerties today.

The vast majority of these trustees' deeds describe property as a rectangle on a grid in a row and file of a "class" that shows off a knowledge of the trendy new scientific method that had just come into fashion at the dawn of the nineteenth century. These lots in classes are what were called the Kingston Commons. When they were created in 1803 they represented one gigantic subdivision, preceding and perhaps prompting the 1811 "commissioner's plan" of the block pattern of New York City.

The Saugerties of this 1827 assessment period was surrounded by mega estates called manors, throwbacks to the patroonships of the days of New Amsterdam. Their authoritarian rule over tenants would not be relieved until New York changed its constitution in 1846.

The Saugerties Henry Barclay found was special. It had the hundreds of individual owners of separate lots of this assessment role. These properties ranged from fifteen to hundreds of acres in size and every one had a fresh free and clear title. The four hundred odd individuals on this roll were about to become beneficiaries of an increase in property value, not a landlord. The planned economic development of Henry Barclay's early industrialization was setting in motion the magic of the land-based asset creation that is so much part of our lives today; the functional side of the American dream.

What creates value in land? The loose geometric stone that you find digging below the surface of your lawn; the deep rutted trails you find on walks in your woods; the field that now is pasture at your stable; all of this represented one person's or entire family's land-based enterprise center that initiated your land's value. An unprecedented population boom for the mid-Hudson region that made the productive use of Saugerties land a benchmark was beginning to set a measure of value in 1827 that has remained right up to the present day.

If you look at the foundation of your house and it is made of stone, that house's builder was employing a land owner's quarrying enterprise.

If you've uncovered the framework of one of your walls and have found the hand sawed posts and beams you are looking at the employment of a land owner's foresting enterprise.

If you enjoy the old commercial buildings of the village center and have become aware of the businesses they contained when newly built you are looking at the outlets for the employment of scores of farmer, craftsman and teamster local land owners of Saugerties.

Until the arrival of competing producers with the railroad and then the motor roads, the land owners of Saugerties sustained it and it sustained them.

I always hesitate to reference something with the introduction of "I recall"... but... I recall an article in the New York Times real estate section sometime back in the 1980's (or thereabouts) asserting that real estate in the Hudson Valley was the toughest to tie down a title for. I thought then, that may be the case elsewhere but not in the land of the Kingston Commons.

Another memory: my business made a special plaque for Armonk headquarters in 1979 for it to give to Boca Raton congratulating them for the development of the IBM PC. A decade later I attended a conference at the State Library on the "research environment of the future" put on by Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). I'm imagining the property values in Boca Raton compared to today's in Silicon Valley where PARC was the only player back then.

This is the simple lesson. In the end, the industrial sites crumble and their land has no value because the industry was the asset. It is left as the grass growing through the cracks of the empty parking lots of Boca Raton. But a sustainable plan retains the symbiotic parts far after its initial purpose has passed and the value of Saugerties real estate is testimony to this history lesson.

Value is in the eye of the beholder and the value of Saugerties can only be beheld by beholding - beholding on tightly - that history of your land. As you look around at all those in Saugerties that use their home PC on their home Internet connection to sustain themselves and their families think of them as the beholders of this history lesson that is the key to the value of Saugerties today.

Posted by Michael Sullivan Smith at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 13 August 2015
Article in the Saugerties Times number 3

The Original Lead Mill at Glenerie

by Michael Sullivan Smith with Audrey Klinkenberg

The falls at Glenerie are familiar to drivers on route 9W -- on the right heading south leaving Saugerties. What is little known is that the industrial ruins of early mills, gone for over a century now, seen between the road and the falls there, are the site of Glenerie, not where the present road marker is a mile back toward Saugerties.

In 1836 a description of Glenerie was published by James Eights, a physician turned naturalist associated with the founders of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Eights describes a suspension bridge at Glenerie, one of only two in America at the time. An entry in a surveyor's field book dated April 20, 1833 in the collection of Dan Lamb lays out a public road from the Glasco Turnpike's bridge running along the west embankment of the Esopus, and uses landmarks of a mansion house and mill buildings at the falls.

Two years ago Audrey transcribed the file copies of letters kept in a record book of the business correspondence of the Great Falls Manufacturing Company. A sketched map included in one of these letters to Manhattan Life Insurance Company for the policy on an entire community and industrial complex at Glenerie sparked our discussions for a few months after that. They focused, not just on who the writers were and what the Great Falls Manufacturing Company was, but also on why the events they brought to light were so utterly missing from the pages of our history.

The letters were penned between December of 1835 and March of 1840. Two of the signers, John Kiersted Jr. and Judson Calkin, were in the 1881 History of Ulster County; Kiersted with a full biography and Calkin as a postmaster of Malden. The main writer, though, is a person only briefly mentioned in our history, and so we dug deeper.

As it turns out this main writer, Col. Edward Clark, was the principle of this business. He followed Henry Barclay to Saugerties. Both Edward Clark and Henry Barclay were in their 50's at this time.

Barclay was the developer of a water power infrastructure and this attracted Clark who wanted to build a manufacturing business. Clark's product was in a sector that at the time was in what is the oil industry today; oil paint to be specific. Clark's innovation in business was the delivery of packaged paint already with the pigment ground into the oil; our paint in a can of today. Before Clark, white lead base and color tint powders were bought from a chemical supplier and the painter ground them together into oil fresh for each job.

Clark’s early career was spent in Philadelphia, but he was born in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. He was well recognized as an inventor, mainly for engineering unique dry dock installations for the government during the War of 1812. He is documented as giving presentations on inland navigation and lock technologies before Congress in Washington in the 1820's. Clark first developed the process he patented for making the white lead of a quality needed for his paint at a converted whale oil processing mill that used the water power of Barclay's dam. By 1832, though, he had left a relationship his young partner Charles Ripley made with John Jewett, a New York chemical products dealer, and had purchased all the land west of where West Bridge Street runs now, along with all the rights to flood the Esopus gorge (upstream of Henry Barclay's pond) from the bend up to Glenerie. He intended to build a dam at the bend and his mill on this land, but the falls at Glenerie proved capable of supplying power without needing a dam. He had already built his mills and his mansion house there when the first entries in the letter book were written.

Col. Edward Clark's Great Falls Manufacturing Company took on investors. Young John Kiersted Jr.'s position there represented his father's investment and Judson Calkin, who was clerk for Asa Bigelow, likely represented his investment. Barclay's was a family business so it appears many of the landed merchants, like Kiersted and Bigelow, found Clark agreeable to their profits being used in his company's operations.

This is where the letters get quite instructive. Investment was a good opportunity to exchange credits and notes for shares that actually had a chance to increase in value during the volatile economic times and it was to this topic of the economy that our interest was drawn.

The greatest depression America has ever experienced lasted from 1837 to 1841. Like our recent history in which the sub-prime bubble burst in 2008, The Bank of the United States was favoring land speculators. As a result, Andrew Jackson removed its control of the currency and put Washington's deposits in regional banks. When these banks began overproducing their own currency, confidence in the economy was shaken. It was during these uncertain times when there was no set value for currency that Saugerties was industrializing.

The details of economic, transportation, communications and legal problems over the period of the entries in this book, up to March 1840, are a treasure of first-hand experience. Considering this is the time that Dickens was writing about in England where there was a much more urbane support system for coping with such problems, we have a very good way from our own recent experiences in the "great recession" to picture the world Mr. Clark writes in.

From these letters we see he had problems with unscrupulous toll collectors at Henry Barclay's bridge. When his lead shipment went to Barclay's warehouse at the village docks, instead of to Glasco, the shipment was thrown overboard. His mail was wrongly delivered to the village and then postage is added to forward it to his actual address at Glasco. The vinegar that was promised never is delivered and his production of white lead has to be halted. Trips must be made to the patent office in Washington to keep Jewett from nullifying his patents. And nearly every week, a trip to the city was needed to sort out why shipments weren't getting from the dock to the dealer.

The Great Falls Manufacturing Company of Glenerie in Saugerties with its pioneering product innovation and perseverance during the hardest of economic times had a brief life. Clark walked away, leaving everything to his company's investors who declared failure in 1841. He set up residence in his townhouse in Brooklyn and died on June 8, 1848.

But the manufacturing at Glenerie continued, and without missing a beat. Notices immediately were published in trade journals that the quality of the product was being maintained by the new proprietors, the chemical supplier Battelle and Renwick. White lead continued to be manufactured by them in Glenerie for the remainder of the nineteenth century under the Ulster White Lead Company providing livelihoods for over a hundred families in a lively community that once thrived at the Glenerie falls.

Now there is nothing but the beauty of the Glenerie falls. But when you pass this setting you may want to ponder the innovation and perseverance that it also represents.

Posted by Michael Sullivan Smith at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 23 July 2015
Article in Saugerties Times number 2

Cultural Geography

by Michael Sullivan Smith with Audrey Klinkenberg

We all know our address. It's a number. There's also the number "20" that represents Saugerties to visitors that come here. That's the exit number on the Thruway. If you're coming here from, let's say, San Francisco you get directions from Google Maps that follow many numbers on their respective roads right to the mailbox of your destination.

The assumption that roads lead you back home or someone can find you as a number on a public road or even that you can freely travel from home to some place and then back again is the basis of cultural geography. In other words, this way of sharing the land as roads has been used by a whole people for this purpose over a very long period of time. Roads are a cultural addition to the idea of geography.

Recently there has been a flurry of interest in early maps. The Library of Congress has put on the Internet more and more fine examples from its collection. One very interesting one is from before the Revolution; the 1749 Evans map. There are even earlier ones but they are less detailed in their depiction of the land and pathways that cross over it. Our interest in maps is where we are and that is pretty much uncharted territory on early maps. Our cultural geography isn't formed yet.

Audrey uses censuses often to "map out" the generations of families. The actual location of where a person resides at a particular time gives you confidence that you have the right person for a name you are studying. Getting the same person for the one that was born to match the one that died is trickier than you may think. That's when knowing where one was during life comes into play. Maps not only orient the search for this but sometimes are a primary source.

The earliest maps of Saugerties that are close to accurate are the wall size maps of Ulster County from the 1850's. They have recognizable road courses and even names of nearby landowners. These maps have selected street layouts of population centers around their ornate borders. A small village of Saugerties is represented in the border of the 1853 Tilson and Brink map and is a major feature with a directory of businesses on the 1858 French's map.

This mapping of the village has a very early start. A large size printed map was made in 1851 when it was the Village of Ulster. That map almost precisely followed the 1827 survey made by John Kiersted in its plan of the streets and lots of Livingston and Barclay. Any address in the village is precisely known because nothing much has changed from this original plan.

In the Beers Atlas of 1875 the village is even more precisely plotted, occupying separate spreads for the north part and the south part in the book's pages. But things are a bit more sketchy when it comes to the town. Though it is upwards to twenty times the land area of the village it is given but a single spread. For the best mapping of the period we still don't have much certainty when it comes to locations in the town.

Fortunately, within the next decade or so the federal government began the geological survey program and some of the first studies were done in the area of Saugerties. The topographical maps of the mud-Hudson region produced first in 1893 give not only the roads but indications of the locations of houses along them and between them.

The most interesting thing we get from the 1875 Beers Atlas is its division of Saugerties into hamlets. The full town map has these boundaries and there are separate detail studies of their commercial centers on other pages. Since this period of time is one of population growth in rural Saugerties a lot of what is indicated here can be firmed up in business directories and in the church and school records of the community within the hamlet borders.

This is very important because as the nineteenth century moved into the twentieth these same hamlets grew into centers of employment as boarding houses and resort colonies became the mainstays of Saugerties' rural economy. This remained the case right into the 1940's when studies of the effects of closure of the last railroad passenger depot of the original four that supported this industry in Saugerties were done. The destinations of Saugerties became one of the principle reasons the first stretch of the Thruway was dubbed the "Catskill Thruway" in its promotions; as a reassurance.

The same names of the hamlets found on the town of Saugerties map in the Beers Atlas were used in promoting these destinations during this "resort" era. From this association the names are still in popular use today. People live in Blue Mountain or High Woods or Flatbush and often say they live, for instance, on High Falls Road in Quarryville. Land surveys and deeds used the hamlet location in their legends and property descriptions right up to the 1950's.

So as we move into the Twenty-first century the question that surfaces continually among the new arrivals runs something like "am I in West Saugerties or Daisy?" There is rarely a hamlet center anymore that has shopping, a school, or a church so the question is more one of cultural geography significance... what the traditional boundaries are.

In 1875 the boundaries of the hamlets were placed because they represented a post office address area and because of that they outlined election districts and school districts and tax districts. Even after many of the post offices were consolidated the other distinctions stayed.

I like to remind people of the history of their neighborhood which is what a hamlet pretty much represents now. It is very easy to enhance interest in a landmark one passes every day or lives in. People want to feel there is something they can relate to as part of their home environment.

The accompanying map shows the boundaries of the hamlets as they are taken from the 1875 Beers Atlas map of the town. The lines are made precise by following the same natural features, like streams, as on the original and, where property lines were followed, the outline follows the current parcel map of the town. The roadways are provided so you can easily travel visually to your home parcel and find which hamlet you are in. This is probably the closest way to experience the idea of cultural geography without leaving your chair.

Get familiar. These hamlet locations will be popping up in every aspect of Saugerties history that will be looked at. They will be referenced, for instance, when the Laflin powder mills or the Bigelow bluestone yards come up. It is this cultural geography that we will use to make you feel right at home with history.

Posted by Michael Sullivan Smith at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 21 September 2015 8:57 AM EDT
Sunday, 12 July 2015
Article in Saugerties Times number 1

The Back-story

by Michael Sullivan Smith with Audrey Klinkenberg

It's funny how the term "history" is used now. We're all familiar with the "Historic Saugerties" signs and can name the attractions. But it's the visitors that every day frame these attractions into GPS coordinates in the selfies they send to big data collections through their social media postings that is the "history" record of today.

So we've relegated "history" as a term to these cold facts. That means that what we're really interested in here is what we'll call the "back story". This is also not what's considered history in an academic sense but really something like the flash of memory that is found in a movie story where you're given what motivates a character.

That notion we have about Saugerties' back story we can thank Benjamin Myer Brink for. Our most popular "memory" of our past; a selfie for all Saugerties; was written over a hundred years ago. Brink produced a magazine covering every history topic of the region; "Olde Ulster"; and also published a book about Saugerties; "The Early History of Saugerties 1660-1825".

If you "Google" Brink's full name you'll find a Library of Congress copy of this book you can save to your computer for free. For half a century most in Saugerties have been buying reprints of it and coveting the rare original found in a used book store. You probably have a copy on your bookshelf if you've been here for more than a generation.

For those who binge on this kind of thing Brink is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many "historic" accounts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that document Saugerties history. Brink's interprets it as a view of his time, just the most recent of these many, and draws on the earlier ones for his facts. As a summary it is the most recognized reference for Saugerties' historic identity.

The past few years have seen the availability of these "historic" (pre-copyright protected) books become digitally available on the Internet. Comparison reading of all the viewpoints has become a history geek pastime. This is no longer for just a select group sharing an expensive library. Those originals are now artifacts; rarely cracked.

Saugerties is probably better represented in these regional and local accounts of the past than most other communities. While the game elsewhere is often to debunk histories as folklore; Rip Van Winkle and all; in the case of the mid-Hudson region it is usually to fill in the blanks. Much has become important that was considered insignificant in the narrative the early authors of histories were concerned with.

Having a "feel" for the times of the author has become part of the back story of reading in general. Recently we've discovered a way to get this back story to the back story of our past.

Audrey is transcribing the hand written diaries that Benjamin Myer Brink faithfully kept from the age of 33 until his death. At the same time she is transcribing a newspaper clippings scrapbook of stories that parallel this personal account with entries from 1880 to 1915. This is revealing the motivations of our key motivator!

Transcription takes a lot of time. As of now Audrey's work is twenty years of Brink's entries away from when he started writing his history of Saugerties. To "jump ahead" you'd still have to read straight through a few thousand pages of the handwriting of Brink. And you'd still need to have absorbed the content of the 35 years of newspaper reports that matched the timespan. It remains to be seen whether the "smoking gun" or guns are there, by which is meant, the factors that influenced life, the efforts taken to do the research and what the sources were.

Add to this a "plot twist".

A note discovered in the State Library Cockburn Collection gives a time-line of past events between the earliest record and the date of this note in 1770; our earliest history document. Were these facts unavailable when our "1660-1825" history was formalized by Brink?

This note is for a legal argument of the rights of Lieutenant Swords to a 2000 acre bounty overlaying most of the mid section and village of today's town. It covers nearly every concept regarded as key to Saugerties' origins; from the Sawyer to the settlement of the Palatines to Indian treaty boundaries; and it is written within the personal memory or directly transmitted memory of those living at the time.

Brink is writing over a century and a quarter after this document. How did the mutations of fact between Brink's names and dates and those of this record occur and does this show a trend that had a beginning point and a cause?

As Audrey transcribes the nearly 13,000 daily diary entries the sources that influenced the facts that formed the story of our past will become part of a body of evidence. These digital transcriptions of Audrey's make the field wide open to mass participation. It's now a game more and more are able to play; an ADA ramp giving accessibility, finally, to the facts of history.

What we intend to do is supply some training wheels. All these new understandings need perspective. We'll do this by presenting new takes on old Saugerties. The digital era is bringing something new to light every day. These small weekly steps will add a contemporary perspective to what you never knew or always wondered about.

I, for one, will not pass the "Historic Saugerties" sign again without a sense of expectation. We hope to build this for you over the weeks and months ahead.

Posted by Michael Sullivan Smith at 5:13 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 21 September 2015 8:58 AM EDT
Wednesday, 3 June 2015
The Civil War Soldier on Partition Street

The original location of the Civil War monument that is now located at the American Legion frontage on Partition Street was blended into the lot that surrounded it in 1957 and then lost to memory. It is interesting that the property purchased by the American Legion post was the home of Charles Davis and that the original deed to the land where the monument originally stood from 1904 to 1952 was also from the same Davis family. The Judge Davis collection of surveys and records is held in the Rosenblum and Lamb Law Office archives. This is what was found when the Civil War soldier statue was researched in the Lamb Archives.

In 1869 Jeremiah Russell, a leading citizen of Saugerties and member of the U. S. Congress in the 1840's, died. His farmlands that spread out to the northwest from his home at the corner of Market street and his turnpike were bought by John W. Davis. On August 10, 1904, after John W. Davis' death, his estate divided from this land a small lot with 40 feet of street frontage and 56 feet deep located on the north side of Ulster Avenue 65 feet up from a fire hydrant about opposite Elizabeth street. The deed was made to the Grand Army of the Republic, G.A.R., Tappen Post, “for monument purposes” and the deed was recorded in Book 383, Page 375, with George E. Carnright and Norman Conyes representing the G.A.R.

In 1920 an abandonment clause was added to the deed and recorded in Book 479, Page 325 for returning the land to the original owner when there were no longer monument uses. 

In 1925 the American Legion post was incorporated and on October 25, 1950 the Lamouree-Hackett Post of the American Legion purchased the property of the granddaughter of John W. Davis where her father, Judge Charles Davis, had built his home in 1880 on a lot that spread between John and Partition streets. On November 6, 1952 the post signed an agreement with the village to have the monument moved from Ulster Avenue to a park created on the Partition street side of this property. By 1956 the G.A.R. had disbanded with the death of its last Civil War veteran member but the American Legion post today still honors the memory of Civil War veterans and our civil community where it maintains the grandeur of a landmark property of the village.

Memorial Day is for remembering and often the memorials that help us to do that have their own past to be remembered. So maybe this bit of background on the G.A.R. statue's move to the American Legion park and this bit about the home where the post is located will shed some light on another time in Old Saugerties.

Posted by Michael Sullivan Smith at 6:10 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 7 June 2015 8:07 AM EDT
Saturday, 28 February 2015
Owning Information - The Art of Reading in the Information Age

A Treatise on the Art of Reading

Since the age of the Internet reading has become an art cultivated and practiced only by the accomplished and discerning.

Just as art was declared "dead" when the concept of "media" became common, writing with the rise of the Internet has lost its value as a primary source of information.

When you can find just when "a picture is worth a thousand words" was first written instantly with a single search on the Internet there is little need to read all the books that may have been written to explain that adage.

Understanding Media was one of these. But to the discerning reader that doesn't even have to be searched; it's obvious just by the context.

Here, if this fit the normal pattern of writing for the topic, would be a formula for the algorithm that resolved this pattern of thought. That in itself explains why reading has become an art.

Writing is controlled by focus; reading is a scattered process subject to the whims of the imagination.

Writing is simply the task of distilling thought down to communication. Ninety-nine percent of those thoughts are "selfies" and the other one percent are only read fully by an extremely small circle of interest.

Only the discriminating reader can glean from all this information what is important. That is art.

"Old Saugerties" is to be the touchstone; the reference key; for a delving into the essence of the art of reading. It is to be a medium that explains what the art of reading is through examples that use Old Saugerties as the central topic for involvement in this process.

For example:


one of the owners of the Saugerties mill,

was sitting in his house, seven miles from the

scene of disaster, at the time of the melancholy

occurrence, but, even at that distance the

shock was so terrific, that many farmers supposed

a cannon had been discharged in their

respective dwellings, while others imagined

that a thunderbolt had struck in their immediate

vicinity: the earth appeared to give one

great convulsive heave, shaking the houses,

jarring the furniture, and creating a widespread

consternation. The instant Mr. L.

experienced the shock, he was conscious of

its cause—he ran to his stable, harnessed his

team, drove to the nearest physician's, and in

a few minutes the Dr. and Mr. L. were at the

mills. The sight there was appalling beyond

conception: the mills were entirely gone,

even to their foundation. Deep circular grooves

were made in the ground around, as though it

had been violently ploughed up. Of the six

persons blown up, the half of an arm was the

largest piece found. Portions of the bodies

were picked up in every direction—even the

very fingers were disjointed: bones of the

legs and arms, ribs, pieces of skull, and other

small portions of the unfortunate men, were

found in every direction, some to the distance

of a quarter of a mile around the works.—

[N. Y. Sun] - Jamaica NY Long Island Farmer
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 1843

This example is a cut and paste clipping from a newspaper page pdf image where the optical character reader has allowed copying the text to a word processor. The only edits have been from where blemishes in the paper make obvious misreads. Otherwise, the formating is as in the original newspaper column.

this is a random find from a keyword search of a microfilm archive that has been digitized to make it searchable on the Internet.

To one accomplished in the art of reading a find such as this is akin to the sensation of intimacy felt by a painter panning and zooming over the brush strokes of a rare masterwork digitally captured in a museum and set free on the Internet.

This simile is not far afield since the contemporary cosmopolitanism of the Internet encourages a painter's acquired sensitivity to words as honed as a reader's must be to the content in images.

This report from 1843 reads like a beginning of a mystery novel, and it should. The source is the N.Y. Sun and it was know for sensational stories and for being the honing ground for writers that would go on to be the recognized literary names of the period.

The owner of the Sun, Moses Yale Beach, would have known Mr. Laflin and Saugerties well. Beach was in Saugerties from 1828 until 1836 when he left to take over the Sun from his brother-in-law, Benjamin Day. From these days in Saugerties he is recognized as one of the founders of the paper mill and is down in the history of paper making as setting up the first fordrinier machine in America. He had arrived as the inventor of a paper pulp preparation machine. It may be this connection to this first efficient machine manufacture of paper that made it possible for his Sun to be famous as the first “penny” paper.

Mr. Laflin was Matthew Laflin who came to Saugerties in 1829 to set up a water powered ax manufacturing factory. Along with his brothers and in-laws he set up a gun powder manufacturing operation at a site on the Plattekill Creek, fortunately far from the population center of the village where he was in his home when this story takes place.

The Laflin mill would go up in explosions twice more as this business grew to be second only to DuPont in this field by the time of the Civil War, with operations in many states and into Canada. Their main office ended up in Chicago where H. Dwight Laflin, a son, had the honor of blasting off a cannon to announce the nomination of Abraham Lincoln for president.

The Laflin family retained a presence in Saugerties in a number of mansions in the center of the village for over eighty years. They were still visiting the seat of their family lore into the 1990's. The residences were where the senior housing is on Main street, where the Bridge Street Family Practice is, and where the diner is. On Market street where the Sawyer Savings Bank is now is where Mr. Laflin had the house in 1843 that shook from the explosion of his powder mill seven miles away.

At the time of this story powder manufacture was mainly for home use. The development of this business paralleled the growth of bluestone quarrying. Blasting powder was used extensively for clearing the top burden from the bedrock for exploration and expansion.

All of these facts can be read into this short item picked up as a filler story by a country newspaper whose editor combed the big city newspapers to add the interest that would sell his product. The only reason it survives is luck. But it's not luck, but art, that has made it useful as something that exists on the Internet. Without the ability to “read into” the story these relationships it would only be a curiosity. In the art of reading it is a powder keg of potential.

From close to the dawn of this story is found a short clip with an even greater range of inference:

It appears from the Ulster Palladium, that

Mr. John Griffiths principal Engineer of the

Iron works of Henry Barclay, Esq. was plunged

by his horse into the Esopus Creek, and

drowned on Wednesday last.

(Catskill Recorder, June 11, 1828)

that creates a popular context for a more arcane area whose depths only the most dedicated to the art of reading have sounded: the unpublished handwritten document.

This brings up a critical measure of what can actually be advanced through the art of reading. A topic can only become universally known through machine-readable characters. Images, both of manuscripts and of documentary photographic representations, are not searchable unless they carry in their metadata transcription or description. That leaves everything that is not printed or that is from personal records made prior to the typewriter in need of future-proofing if there is to be any chance that their content is to be culturally significant.

It is only through the art of reading that previously lost, discriminated against or unrelated to content can add to or correct the contexts that previous media has populated the Internet with. The demands that just one discerning reader's interests bring to this art creates a web that involves all.

Though the precise events surrounding the unhappy demise of Mr. John Griffiths in early June, 1828 are not available, a recent transcription of the microfilmed pages of the ledger book and letters of Henry Barclay held by the New York Historical Society contains passages that this event may have initiated.

The back story that relates to this drama centers around Henry Barclay, Esq, who three years before improved the water resources of the Esopus Creek to standards that could attract industry and an industrial population to Saugerties.

He is referenced as a gentleman in deference to the relationship his father-in-law William Alexander, Lord Sterling, a hero if the Revolution, held as an early practitioner of scientific iron making pursuits. Saugerties held at this time a large contingent of the Alexander family as Lady Mary, Henry's mother-in-law and Jane, the sister of his wife Catherine, and her large family with brother-in-law John Watts Kearney, had set up primary residence there.

Henry had built two mills to prove the resources of the water power of the Esopus and by the time of this event most accounts would have us believe that the location of the iron works and its susceptibility to floods was the reason he sold this development to the owners of the West Point Foundry.

However, the use of the description “principle Engineer” indicates that this plan may have ended up dead in the water along with its prime motivator. It remains to be learned if Mr. Griffiths had connections to Lord Sterling's investments and family but if this is so his death may have brought about a loss of family interest in that enterprise.

Sometimes things are made as clear as day and not in a personal journal or diary but in an account placed in print speaking in such obvious terms on a well recognized topic that it stimulates even the most inarticulate reader. This advertisement from early 1826 is an example.

Valuable site for Manufactories at Saugerties

            The Woodstock and Saugerties Ge-

      neral Manufacturing and Mining Co. of-

      fer for sale or lease, on highly advan-

tageous terms, Lots and Mill privileges of any

description, for manufacturing purposes, with

water power as may be wanted from 6 inches to

50 cubic feet: also, one thousand building lots,

handsomely situated, to accommodate actual set-

tlers, or persons who may purchase, or rent the

water lots. Saugerties is pleasantly situated in

Ulster country, 110 miles from the city of New-

York, in a high and healthy country, on the west

bank of the Hudson River, on the state road

from Albany to New York, commanding fine

views of the Catskill mountains and the Hudson

River. Its contiguity to the mountains, is fa-

vourable for supplies of timber and fuel. The

high state of cultivation of the lands in the neigh-

bourhood of Saugerties, and the populous settle-

ments of respectable and industrious farmers,

will insure a low price of labour and provisions.

The present price of boarding labourers is one

dollar fifty cents per week. The price of trans-

portation to and from New York is fifty cents per

ton. There are on and near the premises, excel-

lent stone quarries, clay, limestone and sand for

building. The creek water is pure and soft, being

supplied with springs on the mountains. There

are also several springs of the purest and softest

water, well calculated for cleaning woollen goods,

rags, &c. for Paper Mills—which may be conve-

niently fed to the upper stories of the manufac-


Several extensive Manufactories of Iron. Pa-

per. Calico Printing, &c. are far advanced and

will be put into full operation this year.

The contiguity to the city of New York, and

facility of passing by sloops or steam boats; the

quantity of water—healthiness of climate and

low price of transportation, are among the nu-

merous advantages of Saugerties, over any other

manufacturing town in the United States. The

price of tide water lots of convenient size, with

one cubic foot of water to be drawn with a head

of eighteen inches, and a fall of twenty-five feet

on tide water of sufficient depth for vessels draw

ing 10 feet water, will be $500 per annum. Lots

equally well situated 900 to 300 yards from tide

water, with the same head and fall, will be from

300 to 400 per cubic foot par annum. The fee

of the lots may be purchased at a reasonable rate,

if wanted for immediate improvement, liberal

inducements will be offered to companies, who

may wish to make extensive manufacturing es-


Inquire of HENRY BARCLAY. President of

said Company, at Saugerties, or of EZRA

WEEKS, New York.   a3 tf
(New York Evening Post, February 2, 1826)

This is the first of several placements of the same text found in digitized microfilm archives of the New York Evening Post through June, 1826. After June, more specific wording advertises the advantages of shipbuilding sites on the waterways and also the precise calculations of the paper production with the innovative machine manufacturing process.

This series completes a record of the first fifteen months in the development of Henry Barclay's investments in Saugerties. In the art of reading these words are illuminating not by the details they share but because they project a fulfillment of Henry Barclay's intentions.

These are new insights. When these fifteen months were far enough in the past to be treated as history, in the 1870's, only directories, commercial almanacs and economic censuses marked the progress of Saugerties in its startup phase. Sometimes official records such as  deeds, agreements and contracts augmented those published accounts and maybe even memory. But the purpose of describing this past was always to tell a story of economic and population growth and not the processes these advertisements record.

One immersed in the art of reading has already absorbed these popular commentaries and thus is prepared for their imagination to be influenced by that important consideration that breeds knowledge: conjecture.

Consider that Henry Barclay was nearly fifty years old when he set out on this venture. The language of this advertisement, as much it promotes that venture, also molds a quality of life statement about his retirement environment after an active life. This draws the inquiring mind toward his previous career and life and what may have brought him to this venture.

Most intriguing in this language is the headline that links Woodstock to Saugerties. Also, before the birth of quarrying, the anticipation of mining as a business interest. One may read into this the interests of others familiar with the local resources inland toward the Woodstock area and that perhaps these investors found manufacturing much more risky than resource development.

But consider also that there exists an engraving, picturing the calico mill and the iron works, produced in England and dated a few years later in 1831. This is by the Irish artist William Guy Wall who is recognized as the earliest influence on the beginnings of the Hudson River School of painting. His presence highlights the aesthetic, quality of life and romance of the wilderness; popular intellectual reasons for the time to have Woodstock in the title because settlers were also being attracted in the advertisement.

Actually, the first to settle represented a who's who in the society of the time. The Barclay family was married into the Livingstons and Henry was married into the Watts which covered the merchant elite of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Henry early attracted fringes of this extended family along with admirers and past business associates to this new lifestyle, and their families gave Saugerties of the late 1820's a cosmopolitan flair with Creole, Italian and Spanish spoken as much as English.

Henry Barclay was, not by choice but by circumstance, a citizen of the world. Born in British occupied New York City during the Revolution with his namesake grandfather the Rector of Trinity Church and a founder of Kings College, and his father a colonel in the British forces there, he ended up in Nova Scotia and then England with the Evacuation by the age of five, to return to New York when his father became the British Counsel to the port of New York in his late teens. He was in consignment business continually from his early twenties to represent the family's influence through his father's position in trade. He had connections to every merchant banker and assurance broker in the city and in the world.

Not a lick of this information is found in any one single resource. The art in reading the 458 words in this fuzzy piece of microfilm of an advertising page in an 1826 newspaper is in moving curiosity in what they imply in the direction of creating this information.

Creativity motivated by curiosity is an innate drive that defines the identity of every unique life, whether vegetable seeking light or animal reproduction opportunity. By the nature of its existence all information is a reproduction of past knowledge. The human condition senses this opportunity just as strongly as a sex drive. Curiosity about one's individual path to fulfillment and the process of awakening desires through heightened empathic acuity climaxes in an intimate relationship in the art of reading in a way no different from what it so obviously mimics.

Generations ago when creativity had to deal with a scarce and nonuniform medium; when books were the primary source of knowledge and they came in many languages; making inspired connections was the discretionary capability of an educated few. The effort taken to read in the original Latin or Greek or German or Arabic closed out those with the primal curiosity that drives original ideas and makes innovative things.

The way the Internet can lead a reader in many directions through many transcriptions and draw connections between many subjects and disciplines has not yet been experienced by one full generation. A discovery that the Library of Alexandria existed and the removal of the taboo by Rome on ancient manuscripts at the wane of Medieval Europe has now just happened both at once in a time of universal literacy. All that is needed is a general cultivation of an art of reading and the impact of this will empower a super Renaissance, primed.

Shinning light on the unexpected excites a kind of joy of discovery in anyone that dreams of the adventure of exploring. That is done all the time through sensational news feeds. And if it leads into the natural course of using the Internet and ranges deeper into the source of the information and information related to that, that is the way it should work. It's a path well traveled by everyone else led onto it by that same news feed and you're not finding anything groundbreaking or unique to you, but its a beginning. You've added to your knowledge base.

The idea of news feeds is well founded in the number of search topics contained in this extensive description of what Old Saugerties had evolved into after 60 years, in the height of the gilded age.


A Beautiful City in the Shadow of the Catskills - A Charming

Summer Resort - Handsome Houses - Home of Its Manufactures and

Industrial Advantages

Nowhere along the Hudson can there be found a town so picturesque in

situation or so rich in natural advantages as Saugerties, in Ulster

County. In describing it I shall not wade so deeply into its history as to

be tiresome, but shall present a few only of the facts connected with its

progress. Pages could be filled with tales of its early settlement by

Dutch colonists, who were little better then slaves and were cruelly

oppressed by their masters as they toiled there. It is the American

Saugerties, however, of which I write. It owes its organization to Henry

Barclay, whose name yet remains a household word in the

neighborhood. Practically he was the founder of the town, and to his

industry, energy and liberality its rapid progress during many years was

due. The ascendancy which Saugerties has attained over its sister

settlements in manufactures may also justly be ascribed to his genius.

He framed the municipal machinery by which the town is still

governed. The history of Saugerties without an account of his efforts in

its behalf would be worse than a Hamlet with the melancholy Dane left

out of the cast.

Henry Barclay was a grandson of the Rev. Dr. Barclay, who was the

second pastor of Trinity Church, this city. He inherited the benevolence

and ability of his distinguished forebear. For many years he was a

prominent citizen of the metropolis. In the course of a visit to

Saugerties he saw that it was an ideal site for a manufacturing city. His

keen business instinct made him recognize at once the great value of its

magnificent water power then going to waste. He was not long in

determining to build a model city there. How well he succeeded will

appear later.

He made his home at the junction of the Esopus Creek and the river,

reserving about two hundred acres of land for the purpose. He named

the place "Ury" after his old home in Scotland. This was afterwards

purchased by Blaise Lorillard, who built a stately residence on the site

of the old "Ury" home, and this was afterwards purchased by J. B.

Sheffield, who called it Brightbank. It is now owned by the Sheffield

estate. Mr. Barclay also acquired the water power. To make the most of

this he commenced the great work which yet remains a monument to

his ability and enterprise - the great dam across Esopus Creek and the

cutting through hundreds of yards of solid rock of a canal for the race.

Then a paper mill was built, which afforded employment to a score of

people. The present great new mill is built on its site. The clatter of its

machinery so stimulated the growth of Saugerties that now, after half a

century of industrial success, the town, or city, as it is in fact, has a

population over


Although a stone tablet in Trinity Churchyard records the death of

Henry Barclay, his spirit lives on in the men of business who have

carried on his work and continued his ideas and plans in Saugerties, and

the needs of progress sown by him have fructified into many well developed

and prosperous industries, some of which will be described

further on.

Nature has adorned Saugerties with scenery of the most beautiful and

grand. Behind it, and throwing their shadows around it, rise the noble

Catskills. At its feet ripples the emerald tide of the Hudson. In a few

years the tourist will hesitate between Saugerties and Catskill, and the

former will secure a full share of the Summer travel. It has scenic

charmes as great or greater than Catskill, and is easier to access. Direct

steamer and railroad connection with New York should have it better

known, as it will be, to the pilgrims who seek strength and rest in the

contemplation of nature's loveliness. Already many of Gotham's

wealthy have erected summer homes for themselves here, and the

indications are that it will soon be a popular resort.

Saugerties might be named the Forest City. Trees with wide-spreading

branches shade the streets and lawns everywhere. Grand oaks at every

turn rustle a welcome to the sun-baked dweller in stone cities. The same

welcome is voiced in hearty fashion by the people who dwell beneath

the trees. They are proud of the town, but have no selfish wish to

confine the enjoyment of its beauties to themselves, and naturally they

are not above considerations of the profits to be made out of the travel

which may come their way. To increase the stream of this travel is a

strong desire for them, and they treat their summer visitors with a

consideration and attention rarely found elsewhere.

Scenery alone, however, cannot make a summer retreat popular. An

Eden to the eye may be malaria stricken, or by reason of careless

inattention to sanitary law a breeder of many diseases. The people of

this town have too much sense to allow it to labor under any such

disabilities. In healthfulness Saugerties is as well endowed as in beauty.

Statistics bear out its people's claim that it is one of the healthiest

places in the State. Nature has made drainage easy there, and as the

people have taken advantage of its facilities in this respect the sanitary

conditions of the town are perfect. Drinking water, clear and pure and

cold, is supplied to the town from mountain springs rising in the

uncontaminated wilderness. No epidemic has ever been known there.

Dr. Livingston, one of New York's best physicians, sends his patients to

Saugerties to regain their strength. Owing to its greater distance from

the sea the climate is less changeable than that of this city and the

temperature is less variable.

Wealthy New Yorkers who have built


in Saugerties have thus testified in the most practical way their opinion

of its attractions. From these homes they extend hospitality to large

circles of friends, and it was my good fortune to visit a few of these

open-doored mansions. Mrs. Ellen Vanderpoel, whose husband was

once so well known as Judge of the Supreme Court of this State and as

the intimate friend of Martin Van Buren, has a lovely dwelling at

Saugerties and spends at least four months of each year there. People

who do not remember Judge Vanderpoel will recall the beautiful

memorial window made by Morris, of London, and placed in Trinity

Church by his widow. It is one of the glories of the church and is a

masterpiece of the glass-stainer's art. The window pictures prominent

scenes in the life of Christ. The chancel in Trinity Church, of which

Potter was the architect, is also the gift of this generous lady, whose

charities have endeared her to hundreds of the poor and afflicted.

The home of Mrs. E. L. Whiting, on Barclay Heights, is so

picturesquely located and beautifully surrounded that no picture by pen

or brush could do it justice. Its beauty can only be fully appreciated by

those who have seen it. It is built on a bluff overlooking the Hudson on

one side and Esopus Creek on the other. A short distance away the

Catskills loom up grandly. A sweep of lawn leads up to the gray-walled

house, which peeps through the branches of huge oaks surrounding and

shading it with a canopy of green leaves.

Chestnut Lodge is the summer house of John G. Steenken, President of

the Ulster Lead Company, whose works are situated at Glen Erie, two

miles from Saugerties. This is the oldest homestead on this part of the

Hudson, and round it cluster many historic reminiscences. Gen. Dias,

of Mexican war fame, built it over sixty years ago in the likeness of a

Mexican hacienda and lived peacefully within the walls until his death.

Afterwards it passed into the possession of its present owner, who is

naturally very proud of it.

A short distance from the hacienda is the home of John T. Washburn. It

has one of the finest outlooks on the Hudson. From its vuranda the view

stretches up the river for many miles. The accompanying illustrations

render unnecessary descriptions of the handsome residences of

Clovelea, owned by W. R. Sheffield, the President of the village, Stony

Point Villa, the property of George W. Washburn and the home of Col.

H. Dwight Laflin. All are gems in Saugerties's crown. Mr. Washburn is

building a conservatory which will be filled with the exotics of which

he is fond. H. Dwight Laflin is one of the leading men of Saugerties. He

was the man who became famous by firing from the Tremont House in

Chicago the first salute at the nomination of Lincoln. He is the sole

surviving officer of the original Chicago Zouaves, who under the

command of Col. E. E. Ellsworth, killed at Alexandria, were present

when first blood was shed in the civil war. He is also president of the

Laflin Powder Company, whose works are in Laflin, Pa., which is

named after him, and President of the New York and Saugerties

Transportation Company. Col. Laflin, as may be judged from his

success in life, is a wide-awake man, who is alive to every opportunity

to advance the interests of his adopted town of Saugerties.

I cannot begin to give descriptions of all the handsome houses I saw

there. There is a lovely house on every hilltop. Charles A. Spalding, of

St. Louis, has his summer residence here. Richard Washburn has just

completed a palace on one of the highest points of Barclay Heights, and

has moved thither from Jersey City. Howard C. Bogardus, Secretary

and Cashier of the Bigelow Bluestone works, is one of the enterprising

young business men of Saugerties. His villa is within the town, and in

its architecture and furnishings reflect great credit to his taste.

Socially Saugerties is greatly favored. That naturally flows from the

presence of so many people of property. Good churches and schools are

there equally as a matter of course. The business houses are of a

superior sort. There is a well-equipped fire department and the town is

well supplied with gas. Two National banks and a savings bank provide

sufficient facilities for business. The two former are the Saugerties

Bank, whose officers are Hon. W. F. Russell, President; A. Carnright,

Vice-President, and Thomas Kenny, Cashier, and the First National

Bank, officered by Hon. R. A. Snyder, President; C. Fiero, Vice-

President, and P. M. Gillespie, Cashier.

The Irving Club is the social club of the City. Its building is large and

perfectly appointed. There are two first class hotels. The Exchange,

managed by W. F. Cofferd, is airy and comfortable and affords pleasant

quarters for Summer guests. The same might be said for the Phoenix,

owned by Mr. Turck. Upon the


of a city depends its commercial greatness. Upon such a truism it would

be useless to enlarge. The wide-awake citizens of Saugerties, with a

realizing sense of this fact, have established two independent steamboat

lines between New York and their town. They also enjoy a very

satisfactory railway service.

Recently the navigation of the creek and harbor of Saugerties has been

greatly improved by the building of a dike 2,300 feet long on the south

side of the creek and by dredging, so that there is now room for vessels

of from 14 to 15 feet draught. Col. Greenfield, who is in charge of the

harbor improvements in this district, has given very much satisfaction

by his work. A dike about 800 feet long is now being built on the north

side of the creek, and a recommendation to Congress has been made for

an appropriation of $20,000 towards finishing the improvements now

under way.

The West Shore Road passes by Saugerties and the New York Central

Railway is connected with it by ferry. Three trains an hour are at the

service of the people to carry them either to Albany or New York. Those

who prefer the trip by water can avail themselves of the New York and

Saugerties Transportation Company's floating palace, the steamer

Astonia, which has recently been refurnished and refitted in most

elegant fashion. The officers of the Company are Col. H. Dwight

Laflin, President, and B. M. Freligh, Secretary and Captain. every

courtesy and accommodation is at the service of passengers on the boat.

Regular trips are made daily from New York to Saugerties and return,

stops being made at all intermediate points of prominence. To the

officers of this Company I am indepted for much courtesy and to Capt.

Freligh for a great part of the information in this article.

Another line with headquarters at this place is the Saugerties and New

York Steamboat Company. This is under the management of R. A.

Snyder, President, and H. L. Finger, Captain. Their boat, the Saugerties,

was built by the Old Dominion Steamship Company at a cost of

$95,000. She is a fast boat, heated by steam and handsomely equipped.

No convenience for passengers has been omitted in furnishing her.

These steamboats land at the dock adjoining the large manufacturing

establishments and each night carry to New York the products of the

mills at but little more than cost of cartage in New York.

The large water power of over three thousand horse-power, owned by J.

B. Sheffield & Son, is developed at the tidewater of the Hudson, and

coal is brought from the Pennsylvania coal fields directly to their mills.

With such advantages as these, combining water power at tidewater

with the best of transportation facilities, Saugerties should become one

of the largest manufacturing ceentres of the State.

Close to the Sheffield mills are the works of the Barclay Sulphite Fibre

Company, of which W. H. Parsons, of New York, is President. They

occupy buildings on the property of the old Ulster Iron Works, so well

known some years ago. The paper mills use a large quantity of the fibre

produced by the Company.

Another institution having a connection with the paper mill of Sheffield

& Son is the Saugerties Blank Book and Envelope Company. W. R.

Sheffield is the manager of this concern, and J. Q. Preble & Co., of

New York, are its selling agents. Its mills employ over one thousand

people, and over a million envelopes are turned out by it every day. The

total output amounts in value to over $125,000 per month, and the payroll

exceeds $5,000 per month.

Martin Cantine & Co. have a card factory here whose business, though

young, is growing rapidly owing to successful management. Loerzel's

Brewery is another enterprise which has had a remarkable growth since

it was located here. Surrounding Saugerties are


which are developing as centres of country trade.

At Malden, two miles away on the river side, are the works of the

Bigelow Blue-Stone Company. These works are the largest of the kind

in the country, and from their quarries is shipped stone to almost every

part of the United States, also a large quantity to Montreal, Canada,

Havana, Cuba, South America and Mexico. They now furnish from

their works stone for flagging, breast-heights for most of the

fortifications in the country, also trimmings for many public and

private buildings. This Company supplies the largest headers for

sidewalks that have ever been furnished. Among the largest is the one in

fromt of the residence of the late William H. Vanderbilt and one still

larger in front of the residence of R. L. Stewart, on Fifth Avenue, which

is 15 x 27 feet. This Company own their own telegraph works in

Malden and Glascoe, also their own transportation company. Among

the latest machins set up at their works are some for planing, sawing

and turning, which are the inventions of their own superintendent and

are used by the Company exclusively. H. T. Caswell is the President

and Treasurer and H. T. Bogardus Secretary and Cashier of the


Col. Caswell lives in Troy, but spends his summers at his beautiful

home near the works. He calls it Obercliffe, and it is one of the best

situated residences on the Hudson.

Glascoe, two miles from Saugerties in another direction, is noted for the

lava brick works of Washburn Brothers. The products of these works,

owing to their superior quality, find markets all over the country. It is of

these bricks and of stone from the Bigelow Company's works that the

handsome residence of W. R. Sheffield is constructed.

At Glen Erie, another near-by village, are the well known works of the

Ulster Lead Company. Mr. J. G. Steenken is President and Mr. Davidson

Manager of this Company.

With such a start on the way of industrial progress, with the enterprise

and shrewdness of its people and with the natural advantages of its

location, Saugerties should soon spring to great prominence as a

manufacturing centre. The day is not far off when Esopus Creek, which

now glides so quietly, though forcefully, between grassy, tree-clad

banks, will be bordered by factories only, and the ripple of its current

will be replaced by the whir of machinery. The natural resources of the

town have only slightly been taken advantage of as yet, and there is

room there for many more wealth-creating mills with plenty of the

cheapest power to drive them, and with every market that New York has

equally accessible to their products. Hitherto Saugerties has suffered

through not being sufficiently known. In part, at any rate, my modest

article should help to remove this disability.

(The New York World, Sunday, July 21, 1889)

The art of reading is enabled by the concept that every proper noun and surname written is related to a creation being composed in the imagination of the reader. A reader finding and realizing the context of a keyword search on the Internet is actually creating a new context for that word.

This is a totally new idea. Prior to the concept of Internet content, written compositions were considered integrated wholes. Now they are represented as assemblies of contextual keywords.

The role of the reader has always been to absorb content as it is presented by a writer and either accept the argument and have it create an impression, or be critical of the presented material and respond in the written form. All education is based on this interchange, as is journalism and literature.

The article just presented has the potential of satisfying hundreds of queries ranging from searches of family names to investigations of industry and social and transportation history. If it is well written a query directed to the middle of it will follow the context back to the beginning and forward to the end and the writing becomes the atmosphere for the query. Within this habitat of interest other discoveries will be cut and pasted into the search window and the reading continues. No two starts with the same search term will branch in the same direction and no two readers will end up with the same story.

This topical index way of reading was born with the encyclopedia three centuries ago in anticipation of what has just become practical over the past decade and a half. This means that on the intellectual level the mind has been long prepared to participate in an art of reading that is essentially creative in nature even if, in the case of encyclopedias, this was contained by the volume.

The world wide web that today has made discovery a creative process is aptly compared here to this article in a publication named The World. The implication, of course, is that the newspaper and the writer of the article are selecting from all the worlds offerings what they believe will be of interest to readers. In this gilded aged example of popular media there is decidedly a social impression intended that parallels the pre-selected material of social media that finds today such a use of the Internet.

The structure of this 1889 article is a very good example of nuances that are embedded in content that is presented through any channel like this.

It begins by saying it's not the whole story and proceeds to give a taste of the back story. After these few short paragraphs the remainder of this 3,000 word piece stays in 1889. The artful reader of 1889 would never have been able to satisfy the curiosity created by these introductory paragraphs just as the curious using social media often passes up the vast opportunities the broader medium offers.

We have seen where "Henry Barclay" and the surname "Laflin", search terms found in this article, can lead. Tidbits of the back story found on the Internet have been shown to fan out to supply a great deal of familiarity. This has left a taste for knowing more of that more adventurous time; less "resort" and more explosive and entrepreneurial; a time totally within the Dickens era world that Harry Potter imagines.

The art of reading can today leave that time traveler as deep in this era as the resources from it and about it have made available. Indeed, at the rate that content is added to the Internet it is likely that one, at the normal pace of reading, may never emerge from such a search.

That is what is happening here. From being only known to a select group of collectors and not even represented in the Library of Congress collection, the 1875 publication "The Pearl" was digitized and made selectively available for reading on the Internet just four years ago. Because it is not presented in searchable form it found through links that the art of reading would naturally lead to. This chronicling of the antebellum era has significantly broadened the amount of first hand witness information available and the range of searchable terms for going even deeper into that world.

Over that same four years hand written journals, such as the Henry Barclay letter book; the Edward Clark letter book; the first decade of minutes of the Village of Ulster; have had their pages digitized and those transcribed so they can be added as media available for searches. These important records of day to day activities and personal interactions captured and dated as they occurred, are also invaluable for extending a search even deeper into this period.

For one that feels a kinship, either actual in family ties to the participants, or empathic in feelings for the goals of the earliest of Early Industrial Revolution entrepreneurs, with the addition of this material and perhaps hundreds of others related in content that is also being found, digitized and put on the Internet from every point of the globe every day, just on this subject, this is a very purposeful reason for developing a mastery of the art of reading.

Each individual in the world has an opportunity to be a mile marker on the information super highway. Most are choosing to be in a traffic jam on one off ramp or another. Consider that the road between those off ramps is what makes them important and the mile markers are the real identities on the road. Even if it plays only a minor role in the structure of the whole super highway at least it's a help to all that traffic using it.

Writing about something you identify with nowadays inevitably is going to become one of those mile markers. People have been writing since recorded time began and people have been filtering out what is unimportant or is misconceived since language began to communicate ideas. That hasn't stopped almost everyone in the world from trying to identify their ideas. It's a social conditioning that happens at birth.

The art of reading offers everyone a shot at identifying with an absolutely unique discovery. Anyone that proceeds into a focused search of the Internet and lets their curiosity and imagination lead them is mathematically incapable of being on the same path as anyone else. Any discovery related to that path and posted in any searchable form has to add to the knowledge base of a general interest and be of use to someone else attracted into this more focused circle of interest that has been newly created.

Few efforts would benefit a broader circle of interest than Heritage. Though no subject is beyond the benefits of the art of reading, heritage fits the idea of a community involvement best. And in Old Saugerties what is most in need of bringing to the community is its origins.

The 1889 World article signals a transition from the height of a long industrial growth to an evolving resort and summer destination in a period that was about to become derision of the industrial to contrive a more idyllic identity.

William R. Sheffield, the President of the village and the largest employer in the entire region emboldened this sentiment with the embarrassment of an involvement with a business partner New York newspapers gave favored treatment in their stories. This is a more fact-based account.


Total Liabilities of the Paper Firms

Established at $2,000,000

NKW YORK, Dec 24—A dispatch from

Kingston, N. Y., says; The total liabilities of

the Saugerites paper firms that have fast failed,

including the Chicago branch, known as the

Wabash Manufacturing Company, are estimated

at $3,000,000. The indebtedness is

mainly on promissory notes and acceptances,

of which about $100,000 is held by local banks

of the village and this city, and the balance

by the Third National, Ninth National, Mercantile

National, and Merchants' Exchange of

New York; the Merchants' National, Albany,

and the First National of Springfield, Mass.

About $20,000 is due to the employees. It is

believed the nominal assets of the four concerns

would nearly equal the liabilities if they

were directly available. But they consist

largely of the mill property and plant The

mill alone is valued at half a million, $263,000

of which is represented in mortgage bonds held

by the Sheffield family; $50,000 is in a mort-

gage upon the property rented to the Barclay

Fibre Company, held by John G. Meyers of

Albany. The raw and manufactured stock is

estimated between $300,000 and $400,000;

machinery and fixtures, $200,000. This is the

paper mill proper. The Blank Book company

have stock finished and unfinished to the value

of $300,000; machinery and fixtures, $100,000.

All this is in addition to open accounts with

customers. The loss of $125,000 by the Chicago

house, and the failure of Preble & Co. to meet

maturing obligations, are the immediate causes

of the failure. The papers in an application

for receivers in the case of J. B. Sheffield &

Son and the Saugerties Blank Book Company

were filed with the Attorney-General yesterday,

all the stockholders joining in the petition.

Howard Gillespie and Charles Wilson

were named as receivers. The men were

promised payment yesterday, but were not

paid. The Barclay Fibre Company is not involved

in the failure. The annual output of

the mills was valued at $1,250,000.


This is an example that presents an opportunity to look at a period of fifty years from the perspective of the outcomes a hundred years after that, with all the records available from the time. As a gage of a community's grasp of its heritage the events of this period are as comprehensively documented in Internet accessible prime source material as any, and these are as indictable in their resonance as totally unremembered events in the present as could possibly be found anywhere.

The statement that rings clear here is that when one documents one's path in a search this carries with it every right in the world to indict the cultural recalcitrance it brings to light. In this day and age there is no hiding any act from scrutiny, even those representing indifference.

Every topic has a natural place in time that is its pedigree of relevance. The art of reading is a subversive play in a field long defined by those often inveterate agendas of histories. Half of the joy of discovery in the art of reading is looking behind the curtain that these agendas have fashioned to define time.

That term "subversive" is used because the art of reading inevitably meets territorial boundaries. Facts without filters have the potential to change beliefs and not always in the direction desired by individuals that feel this violates their personal privacy rights.

Material is reaching the Internet from digitized public records of courts, government legislation proceedings, contracts, wills and deeds as well as academic studies of social and environment effects created by named institutions. These and even more arcane and previously unimportant documents now have their references to individuals, places, businesses and nameable practices as information available to an Internet search. The world is heading toward being one big source.

This story of Old Saugerties illustrates how the art of reading into and through newly available information brings realizations and change to present day understandings of the past.

This last clipping from the Buffalo Currier reports on events from the same year as the previous article in the New York World. That article of July, 1889 describes completely the ambiance of the community where the "failures" of the following December happened. William Sheffield and the industrial operations and the banks involved are all search terms common to both.

A simple association between the two stories would have one thousand out of the entire population of "eight thousand souls" affected. When this same story is read in the New York Times the responsibility of this Christmas Day bombshell is placed squarely on the over reach and extravagant ambitions of W. R. Sheffield. That image has stubbornly dogged Sheffield in the memory of the community ever since.

However, in the light of the ever broadening range of sources that return information on this topic, the whole matter can no longer be approached so simplistically. Indeed, what was extravagance then has now, instead, become an example of the earliest attempt in the history of complex business enterprise at innovative planning of what today is termed "vertical integration".

That plan was to take raw material into the Barclay Fibre company and make that into the material used by the Sheffield Paper company to make the material used for the products of the Saugerties Blank Book company, thus creating the efficiencies that would allow the Preble company to dominate the market for stationery in the United States. Two innovative industrialists, William Sheffield and William Parsons, had these plans tripped up by a transfer of the Preble company to a son who defaulted on that company's obligations as a partner in the blank book company's mortgages on the new factory building on East Bridge Street.

Reports show the operations back up by the second of January, with no loss in wages; but the impression of instability had been made in a community used to being self sustained for generations. The questioning of Sheffield's character shows up in editorials on the debt the village was placed in for the street improvements between the docks on the Hudson river and the West Shore railroad station while he was president. Letters purporting to have observed him making Mulligan drunk and taking the deed for the iron works for a pittance further questioned his honor. This continued until it affected his businesses, and he then turned over management to the first of a half a dozen companies that followed until the last closed in the 1960's.

It is ironic that this strong criticism that ended up affecting the future image of the mills was leveled by Edward Jurnegan, the co-producer of The Pearl in 1875, whose picturesque photographs of the mills in its pages were so attuned to the descriptions of their origins and function written by Leon Barritt. These images remain today our only solid connection with the depth of this history. But because of the attitude this negativism fostered the mills found no champion when they ceased operation, were demolished for the value of their brick, leaving his pictures among the few reminders today that they even existed.

Should only this saga of "failures" be found in a search for William R. Sheffield, or if the event here were, conversely, never ranked high on the search list, this entire period would remain an enigma. It would be a Greek tragedy the gods' whims had some unknowable bearing on. It would be a footnote in a study that was about something else.

The art of reading in the information age has no purpose for footnotes. Nothing that returns a link in a search exists without bringing with it a context for that find. As a person William R. Sheffield is as deep as there are "o's" in google.

So as a far too brief summary, this Sheffield is the J. B. Sheffield & Son Sheffield that was the son showing the ambition and drive that got him on the Company shingle instead of J. B. Jr. He was 21 when that happened, 25 when he oversaw the rebuilding after Henry Barclay's original mill burned to the ground in 1873, and 30 when his father died leaving him to direct the business' future. Every building lining the shoreline that is shown in post cards of this end of the century landmark of river travel he built. The most contemporary architect-designed residence in the entire mid-Hudson region he built as his Clovelea.

In encountering his character there is no question that he was everything that was written. He was of the generation that Jay Gould belonged to. Gould was a cousin by his sister's marriage into the Cantine family and he mentored that cousin by marriage to start the next generation of industrialists in Old Saugerties. Like Leon Barritt, the journalist, he had better things to do when he left Old Saugerties to its wiles, and those, like Barritt's are findable through the art of reading too.

Good, bad or indifferent, the legacy that enables the art of reading to travel through this complex web of discoveries is fulfilling the spirit of the Internet. What that does to the traveler is going to be profound. There are innumerable human truths that need to be learned for self awareness to be achieved and this has never before been possible from any individual authorship. The art of reading answers more questions than a mere book could ever have in its grasp.

To prove the point it is helpful to have reminders of how information was shepherded before the Internet.

Information had two levels of importance with the one that warranted most serious consideration being that of "current affairs". The other one, though, is often the gateway to far more interesting topics than what was frequently dismissed and forgotten as "Old News" with the publishing of the next current edition.

This find is from a date when the very occupation of the correspondent foreshadowed the soon to be overwhelming reality of ever present media. It's a stream of consciousness flow of three generation's worth of reminiscences in a pickle barrel load of country store talking points.

Received an interesting and

informative letter from Francis

C. Wolven, a radio and TV

technician from Saugerties. He

writes in part: "was interested

in your column of Feb. 10 regarding

the sale of the Jacob

Becker Hotel in Centerville.

The hostelry used to be a favorite

stop for lunch for teamsters

in the heyday of bluestone, cordwood,

(the brickyards also were

excellent customers) and piling

for the many docks."

Mr. Wolven goes on to say;

"The usual procedure was to put

the horses under the shed, at-

tach the feedbag and then retire

inside to refresh the driver. And,

as usual, there were chickens

underfoot to salvage the oats

spilled in feeding the horses. (A

good time was had by all.)

He asks "I have often wondered

if you have any information

regarding the hotel which

used to stand on top of Mt.

Marion hill? I have no idea who

owned or operated it and the

only information available, is

mostly contradictory. I first

heard of it from my mother's

cousin, Mrs. LeRoy Longendyke

(her husband owned and operated

the Broadway Garage).

She is a woman of about 75 and

had heard her mother tell of

being taken to dinner there on a

date as a girl in her teens. She

remembered George Washburn

coming to dinner there with his

large family."

He further writes: "I spent

quite a bit of time hiking over

the hill and finally located the

ruins of the old hotel. It had

burned down and was so completely

obliterated that a road

ran directly through it without

leaving evidence that a large

building had ever stood on that


Perhaps some old timers remember

this hotel that "faced

out over the ledge near the very

summit of the hill and, from the

looks of the foundation, had a

porch clear across the front for

those who wished to admire the

excellent view. Evidently, it

must have been impossible to

fight the fire and the building

had burned nearly unchecked.

The bluestone foundations were

completely shattered and discolored

and dishes and glass

were melted to an unusual extent.

Excavation showed very

little charcoal; the fire must

have burned itself nearly clean.

Bricks found in the ruins wore

rather rough and had no trademark

at all.

"The location was accessible

by a road up the side of the hill,

beginning at the old Lowther

(now Wood) place on the

Charles Ricks Road as well as

by the now Echo Hill road in

Fish Creek. This latter was the

former back road into Veteran

(or Toodleum) used to avoid the

toll-gate at what is now Burgemeister

place on Route 212, west

of Veteran. There was another

road, probably secondary, down

the hollow emerging near the old

Jerry Russell place on the Chas.

Ricks Road."

Perhaps other readers may

add to these details sent by Mr.

Wolven: "In the valley west of

the hotel between the shoulders

of the hill and very near the repeater

station on the telephone

cable line, there are still a

couple of rectangular ponds

which may have provided water

for the hotel. A sizable bluestone

foundation near the larger

pond may have been an icehouse

although looks heavier than

necessary for that. If it was a

pumping station, there is no evidence

of smokestack or support

for pumps and engines capable

of raising water to the level of

the hotel"


Mr. Wolven here invokes a tradition early encountered in a dim, wallpapered parlor when, as a child, he would have been inducted into a pattern of socialization in the company of a bevy of elderly caregivers, cautioned to quietly listen to what he later as a parent could jokingly, in a world of wider influences, refer to as the "reciting of the litany". That ritual, usually accompanied by a family bible stuffed with remembrance cards and every blank space scrawled with data, spoke of those who passed, those who were just born, those whose deeds were vile and those who were certain for sainthood; delivered to the cadence of rocking chairs and, in the winter, the occasional crack of an expanding plate on a hot pot belly stove. This was the process of communicating memory that was impressed upon young minds back then and maybe for hundreds of generations before, and Mr. Wolven, or perhaps his children, would be the last generation to experience this in what fast became the technology obsessed society that changed everything.

There is a lot more, though, implied by both this newspaper column and those changes in learning patterns.

The Internet is an interactive medium not dissimilar to the parlor's environment in which the content of conversations was absorbed. The Internet's totally new interactive experience first encountered just half a generation ago falls within that same comfort zone. The only difference is the potential for learning in the Internet experience leaves behind this basic family heritage remembering and enters into the accumulated knowledge of the whole world's heritage.

The only reason the obviousness of this connection has to be even mentioned is because the rapidity of the transition between that parlor and the Internet still has everyone in shock. It is important to realize that Mr. Wolven, in 1960, was experiencing a world in which he was born before television, witnessed the first live transcontinental TV broadcast and was nearly a decade away from a live television image from the moon. More to the point, after these fantasies had become everyday realities of his world he was again jerked yet more abruptly into an age when personal video recorders were used to capture his memories as that elderly person in the parlor.

Mr. Wolven was gone before the ubiquity of the digital video that made captured memories as commonplace as junk mail. Even the generation he spawned was too dazed by it all to realize the impact it was having on their world. This left their offspring, those that began forming their identity as the Internet came into being, with the responsibility of all alone reinventing this parlor that they never knew existed.

So the art of reading addresses the bond this generation feels to accounts like this one of their great grandfather's memories on the memories of his grandmother who as a young girl on a date dined in the same room as Mr. Washburn and his young family atop the present day empty Mount Marion where once perched a grand hotel. In their age they can examine the "contradictory" hearsay that was all that was available to Mr. Wolven to confirm or offer some way toward resolving his observations.

Doing so would cover a lot of ground. This topic, like many others so well documented in the gilded age in Old Saugerties, falls generally under interest in land speculation with the arrival of the railroad and the attractions that created a boom in the building of resorts and transportation routes to them. The coverage on building and opening businesses, their economic successes and loses, and displacement after their close made good copy for newspapers. Census reports and in some cases period histories and memoirs like Mr. Wolven's also add to other resources that could solve this riddle from 1960.

Posted by Michael Sullivan Smith at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 18 September 2015 8:52 AM EDT

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